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Amanda Nauman: Upping the ante at Unbound Gravel XL

Amanda Nauman
Amanda Nauman (Image credit: Shimano / Kevin Fickling)

Amanda Nauman is an official member of the Gravel Grail, also known as the 1,000-mile club, and one of a select few cyclists who have finished Unbound Gravel 200 five times. She’s also a two-time winner of the infamously grueling, marquee gravel race but this year she will up the ante and race Unbound XL for 350 miles through the Flint Hills of Kansas.

What’s another 150 miles? A lot, apparently, as Nauman explains in an interview with Cyclingnews just days ahead of the event. 

"In an event like this, where there is a lot of riding at night, I practiced riding with lights and in the dark, riding in aero bars and learning how my body does with X amount of hours of riding at night," Nauman said.

"Training for this was a big experiment. My training hasn’t really changed in terms of the amount of riding, but I’m not as  focussed on high intensity, and try to do more [miles] in the time that I have."

A former distance swimmer and triathlete, Nauman switched to off-road sports mountain biking and cyclo-cross before she getting into gravel racing in 2015. 

She won Unbound Gravel’s 200-mile editions in 2015 and 2016, and then made the decision to compete in gravel racing consistently across North America. She also runs her own gravel event, Mammoth Tuff located at Mammoth Lakes in California's Sierra Nevada mountains.

Nauman has completed five editions of Unbound Gravel 200, joining the Gravel Grail Club, but said it was time to create some new goals this year.

"When you finish five of the 200-mile events you get the Gravel Grail and you are in what’s called the 1,000-mile club. I got the Gravel Grail in 2019 because that was the fifth one that I finished. When you finish five you think about what the next crazy thing is that you can do," Nauman said.

Nauman expects to finish the Unbound Gravel XL in roughly 24 to 30 hours, and she said that she aims to finish before it gets dark the next day.

"You can stop if you need to take a nap but the point is to go straight through. That sleep deprivation makes it a unique event. It’s just long enough where you can get away with not sleeping," Nauman said. "It’s completely self-supported, and gas-station based, so you ride into gas station points, and the self-sufficiency aspect is higher."

Her closest rival will be defending champion Leal Wilcox, who specialises in ultra-endurance racing, and won the 2019 Unbound Gravel XL in 23 hours and 51 minutes. 

Nauman expects it will be a tough battle but she hopes for two outcomes: finish and win.

"The first goal is to finish and the second is to win it. I think I can win," Nauman said.

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Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in bike racing from the grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all cycling disciplines, edits news and writes features. Currently the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten coordinates global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.